From the outside, the station house hadn’t changed much in fifty, maybe sixty years. A solid, square building of wood and stone, it had been designed with practicality higher up the architect’s list than looks. The interior was in a similar vein as you first stepped through the door. Over the years, Sgt. O’Halloran’s desk had been polished smooth by dozens of sleeves, and the benches in the lobby had the graffiti and carvings that were the result of half a century of boredem and nerves. The further you went back in the building though, the more up to date it got. The polished wood was elbowed out of the way by glass and chrome, and brass locks stepped aside for keypads and scanners. I reached the archive room door, waved my badge at the pad and it slid open with a soft hiss. The only other occupant was a young female officer who was hunched over one of the screens. She looked up as I walked in. I couldn’t remember her name, but the face was familiar. I nodded. She nodded in return and went back to her work.
I picked a screen at the back of the room where I was unlikely to be overlooked if someone else were to come in. I wasn’t doing anything that was technically illegal, but questions might be asked and quite frankly, right now I had enough to worry about.
As I flung my coat over the back of the chair the machine’s innards recognised the badge on the lapel, and the screen flickered into life. Moments later I was online. The net’s a wonderful thing, particularly if you’re looking to waste ten or twelve hours a day, but now and again it can actually be useful.
Everybody’s got their favourite search engine, but as I clicked on the drop-down, the list that came up included some names that most folks wouldn’t recognise. People have fought for years to keep the web open to all, but it’s a fact of life that there are significant chunks of it that the likes of you and I never see.
Well. You, anyway.
I selected one of the lesser known engines, got a search box up and started typing :
As I hit return, the screen started churning out links. Within a few moments I’d found her registration id, and armed with that, the search engine’s AI was able to filter the results. I plugged a datastick into one of the machine’s ports, and started copying. Most of the stuff that came up was pretty mundane. Birth records, banks details, addresses and so on. I stopped for a minute to admire the quite spectacular list of offences on her driving licence and made a mental note to never get in a car with her.
I trailed through the links, reaching dead end after dead end, but now and again something interesting would turn up.
I went back to the search box :
Even narrowing it down with a registration ID, there was far more information than I was ever going to deal with. I copied a fair chunk and tried searching for the daughters.
Most of what came up seem to be linked to gossip sites. When Nancy had said that they’d spent most of their time partying, she wasn’t kidding. These two looked like they’d been having a good time, all the time. Lily was engaged to a hot-shot financier, while Jezebel seemed to have left a string of well-to-do boyfriends in her wake, and didn’t show any signs of slowing down. I picked off some bits that looked like they might be interesting, pocketed the datastick and stood up. The way my spine cracked made me realise I’d been sitting there far longer than I’d meant to. I’d said to O’Halloran that I’d be out in thirty minutes, and I’d spent half of that in the Captain’s office.
Jeez! What the Captain had asked me to do (Asked? Who was I kidding? Told.) suddenly came flooding back. I frowned, filed it under ‘To Do’ and headed out before I got Sarge into trouble.
“Thanks, Sergeant.” I pushed the badge across his desk as I went through the barrier and then weaved my way through the collection of weirdos who seem to gravitate towards Police Stations.
“Hey!” O’Halloran called after me.
“Let’s be careful out there!”
I smiled, waved over my shoulder and headed down the steps. The mid-afternoon pavements weren’t so busy now, and it wasn’t long before I was back in my own neck of the woods. Because I was still thinking about what had happened in the past few hours as I crossed the road to my building, I wasn’t really paying attention. So I was only half aware of a black sedan coming down the street when it suddenly accelerated and veered across the road, heading straight for me. I threw myself at the pavement. The concrete winded me as I landed, but given the alternative, I wasn’t complaining. I got to my feet and dusted myself off as the car tore round the corner. Other than a few scrapes and one more tear in my coat, I’d survived pretty much intact. Sadly I couldn’t say the same for some unlucky cat, who was lying smeared across the road. Funny. I couldn’t ever remember seeing a brown cat around here before. Looking both ways this time, I stepped back out into the road.
It wasn’t a cat.
It was my Fedora.
I’d had irate people, who didn’t like the idea of me sticking my nose in their business, warn me off before, in a variety of ways. Sometimes it was threats, though usually they just skipped that bit and proceeded directly to the violence. It was a hazard of the job, and although I’d had my nose broken a few times, I just figured it added character.
This time, though, somebody had killed my hat.
That I take personally.